Malpractice News

June 6, 2013

Doctor, patient communication has room for improvement

Doctors and patients aren’t communicating adequately, a new study shows, especially when it comes to talking about prognoses and treatment options. And while some patients may prefer to leave all the decision-making up to their doctors, this isn’t necessarily the best policy as some critical information the doctor needs to know in order to prescribe the best treatment for the patient may end up being omitted.

Dr. Floyd Fowler, the senior scientific advisor for the Informed Medical Decisions Foundation in Boston, was one of the lead researchers in the study. He explained that they looked at 2,718 adults over 40 in the U.S. who “had seen a doctor or any of the five most commonly treated medical conditions—high blood pressure and cholesterol, prostate and breast cancer screenings, and back and knee problems—during the previous two years.”

The researchers found that while doctors were fairly good about describing the complicated surgeries associated with back and knee problems, they found less consistency when it came to conversations about cancer screenings or treatments for cholesterol.

In a separate study, researchers found that doctors were similarly remiss when it came to discussing  long term prognoses with dialysis patients. In fact, some doctors refused to discuss the topic at all, though Dr. Melissa Wachterman of the VA Boston Healthcare system said, “There are a lot of reasons why there is a benefit for patients to have this information if they want it.”


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